Romania is looking to purchase F-35 fighter aircraft to modernize its air force and strengthen its security on NATO’s eastern flank and in the Black Sea region. The country’s defence ministry has submitted a request to the parliament for approval of the acquisition of 32 F-35As, which would equip two squadrons of the Romanian Air Force.
The deal is estimated to be worth about $6.5 billion and would be carried out under the foreign military sales framework with the United States. A second phase of the procurement could involve another 16 F-35s, bringing the total number to 48.
The F-35 is a fifth-generation stealth fighter jet that can perform multiple roles, such as air superiority, ground attack, electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. It is designed to operate in complex and contested environments, with advanced sensors, data fusion and network capabilities. The F-35 is produced by Lockheed Martin, a US-based aerospace and defence company, and has been adopted by several NATO allies, such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and Poland.
Romania’s decision to pursue the F-35 program comes after the country’s Supreme Council on National Defense, chaired by President Klaus Iohannis, authorized the defence ministry to acquire the aircraft in April 2023. The president said that the F-35s would enhance Romania’s air defence capabilities and contribute to NATO’s collective defence and deterrence posture. He also said that the new aircraft would complement the existing fleet of F-16s, which Romania acquired from Portugal in 2016.
Romania is one of the few NATO members that meets the alliance’s target of spending 2% of its gross domestic product on defence. The country has been investing in modernizing its military equipment and infrastructure, especially in light of the increased military activity and pressure from Russia on its eastern border and in the Black Sea region. Romania hosts a US-operated missile defence site as part of NATO’s ballistic missile defence system and participates in various multinational exercises and operations with its allies.
The F-35 procurement process is expected to take several years, as Romania will have to negotiate the terms and conditions of the deal with the US government and Lockheed Martin, as well as secure the necessary funding and approvals from its parliament and institutions. The defence ministry hopes to receive the first F-35s by 2030. By then, Romania could become one of the leading air powers in Eastern Europe and a key partner for NATO’s security and stability.